Where is the ZiG? Locals say still getting sweets for change as new money hard to get

Where is the ZiG? Locals say still getting sweets for change as new money hard to get


HARARE: Zimbabwe’s new gold-backed currency started circulating on Tuesday amid government hopes it could help stabilise the economy — but many locals complained banknotes and coins were too hard to obtain.

The so-called ZiG, or Zimbabwe Gold, replaced the Zimbabwean dollar, whose value against its US counterpart had collapsed over the past year, pushing up inflation.

The new currency officially started trading earlier this month, but the central bank only released the first two denominations — a 10 ZiG note ($0.70) and a 5 ZiG coin — on Tuesday.

Despite hopes this would solve a shortage of small change, Zimbabweans were left disappointed.

“Where is the ZiG? Why are we still being given things we don’t need for change?” a disgruntled shopper said after being given a bar of chocolate instead of coins at a supermarket in an upmarket suburb in the capital Harare.

Many Zimbabweans have long preferred using US dollars for transactions.

But due to a lack of coins, stores often give change in candies and cookies.

“We haven’t had a customer who brought it in cash today,” said a shop assistant at another retailer.

Professor Gift Mugano, director for African Governance and Development at the Durban University of Technology, said the central bank released small denominations first to “curb money supply and inflation”.

But some stores on Tuesday were marketing goods at inflated prices in the local currency compared to the official US dollar exchange rate.

Soaring prices have piled pressure on Zimbabweans who are already contending with widespread poverty, high unemployment and a severe drought induced by the El Nino weather pattern.

After climbing well into the triple digits last year, inflation was at 57 percent in April.

“We have not seen the ZiG and its benefits yet,” said Sophie Lizaze, a Harare commuter who explained she had to pay $1 for a short bus ride — double the usual cost paid in local currency.

Mugano said the ZiG alone could not solve the country’s woes. Things would stabilise only if Zimbabwe’s economic output was to grow, allowing the country to earn foreign currency and create demand for its own.

Others were more optimistic.

“If we compare (it) to the past currency… this one has value,” said Philipp Manyonganise, as he queued outside a bank to withdraw the new money.